For decades, one Arkansas football coach after another has talked the talk when it comes to recruiting Texas. The brass on the Hill even rolled the dice on a bloviating, twitchy-eyed car salesman from SMU in large part for the Texas football connections he promised. Mostly, however, Razorback coaches kept missing pay dirt when they tried to swing with the big boys for the best recruits Texas has had to offer in the 21st century.
In 2000, Houston Nutt signed Lawrence Richardson, the state of Texas’ No. 7-ranked recruit according to the 247Sports composite rankings. In the following two decades, Arkansas only signed one “Texan” ranked in the top 15.
That was Ryan Mallett, an Arkansas native who played high school football at Texas High (Texarkana, Texas). Mallett, the No. 1 recruit of the state of Texas (and No. 5 in the nation) in 2007, signed with Michigan out of high school but transferred to Arkansas.
Still, for all the talk about Texas being a focus of recruiting efforts before and after the Bret Bielema years, there was very little to show for it in the modern recruiting era in terms of top talent signed.
That is starting to change under the staff of Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman. Pittman is already on the brink of getting a commitment from Oklahoma’s top recruit, Luke Hasz, and his assistants are doing tremendous work in Texas too.
In 2020, the Razorbacks broke back into the top 15 of Texas recruits by signing No. 14 Malik Hornsby, who is now the fastest quarterback in college football. But Pittman’s most impressive Texas recruiting catch yet came this offseason with the arrival of a five-star linebacker by way of the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Drew Sanders’ Place in Razorbacks Recruiting History
Earlier this week, the 6’5, 244-pound Drew Sanders decided to transfer from Alabama to Arkansas over Oklahoma and Texas. “We’re used to hearing Arkansas not getting those kids,” Arkansas football reporter Otis Kirk said on Pig Trail Nation. “When it came down to Arkansas, Texas and OU, we’re conditioned to say, ‘Well, he shouldn’t come here. He’s not coming here.’ But he did.”
“And with this staff, that’s what’s happening.”
Sanders will provide Arkansas with its most athletic, physically impressive linebacker since Quentin Caver, who is also Arkansas’ last linebacker to be taken the first two rounds of the NFL Draft. Sanders’ arrival also marks another milestone: it’s the first time a native Texan who was rated the No. 1 recruit in Texas has ended up signing with Arkansas in the modern recruiting era.
In the case of Sanders, a Denton native, that ranking happened in 2020. In the 247Sports Composite, which is a composite of the grades of multiple outlets, he graded out as the No. 3 player in Texas. But in the 247Sports poll proper, he was Texas’ No. 1 recruit (and No. 13 nationally).
Sanders is an extremely versatile player, so while he’s a four-five star talent on defense, he could also be a three and half star talent at tight end as the hilariously enthusiastic analyst below points out below.
For Razorback fans expecting to see Sanders carry forward the legacy of Hayden Henry/Grant Morgan style whompin’, they will want to check out the incredible tackle sequences at 3:10, 4:19 and 6:14:
To be clear, Arkansas has gotten some great football players from Texas in recent years. The likes of Tony Ugoh, Johnathan Williams, Bumper Pool and Jalen Catalon, which you will see listed below, are All-SEC to All-American level talents.
But for the Razorbacks simply need more of highly-regarded Texans on their conference, instead of one every year or two. That’s why the fact Pittman has now gotten top 15 Texans from the class of 2020 on his roster is significant. It’s actual walking the walk that means the days of Arkansas getting a handful or more of blue-chip Texans on each roster may soon return.
Texas Football Recruits Year by Year
The rankings below draw from two different sources. Top247 rankings are not available previous to 2010, so the 2000-2009 rankings are 247Sports Composite rankings. But 2010 and everything afterward are Top247 rankings.
Boldface is Texas’ No. 1 recruit for that year.
BJ Johnson (national rank: 7, overall score: .9976) Texas
Chance Mock (17, .9918) Texas
Roy Williams (18, .9916) Texas
Cornerback Lawrence Richardson signed with Arkansas as the No. 7 player in Texas of this class. He was No. 59 in the nation with a score of .9773 (four stars).
Tommie Harris (national rank: 6, overall score: .9966) Oklahoma
Ben Wilkerson (national rank: 13, overall score: .9944) LSU
Jami Hightower (national rank: 30, overall score: .9863) Texas A&M
Vince Young (national rank: 1, overall score: 1.000) Texas
Rodrique Wright (6, .9970) Texas
Reggie McNeal (8, .9970) Texas A&M
Offensive tackle Tony Ugoh signed with Arkansas as the No. 17 player in Texas of this class. He was No. 99 in the nation with a score of .9373 (four stars).
Ofa Mohetau (15, .9934) BYU
Jarvis Moss (18, .9928) Florida
Jorrie Adams (19, .9926) Texas A&M
Adrian Peterson (1, .9996) Oklahoma
Rhett Bomar (4, .9982) Oklahoma
Frank Okam (20, .9918) Texas
DeMarcus Granger (7, .9964) Oklahoma
Reggie Youngblood (8, .9960) Miami
Martellus Bennett (16, .9936) Texas A&M
Sergio Kindle (4, .9981) Texas
Matthew Stafford (6, .9975) Georgia
Eddie Jones (20, .9919) Texas
Michael Crabtree, a future two-time unanimous All-American, signed with Texas Tech as the No. 26 player in his class. He rated as a four-star with a score of .9000.
Ryan Mallett (5, .9978) Michigan
Terrance Toliver (8, .9965) LSU
Tray Allen (11, .9948) Texas
Jermie Calhoun (9, .9945) Oklahoma
R.J. Washington (10, .9941) Oklahoma
Stephen Good (37, .9798) Oklahoma
(Andrew Luck was No. 5)
Russell Shepard (3, .9986) LSU
Craig Loston (9, .9956) LSU
Garrett Gilbert (13, .9918) Texas
Running back Knile Davis signed with Arkansas as the No. 26-rated player in Texas of this class. He was No. 207 nationally with a score of .9127 (four stars).
Jackson Jeffcoat (national ranking: 7, rating: 99) Texas
Mike Davis (8, 99) Texas
Ahmad Dixon (26, 97) Baylor
Steve Edmond (15, 98) Texas
Brandon Williams (18, 98) Oklahoma
Trey Metoyer (21, 98) Oklahoma
Mario Edwards (1, 100) Florida State
Malcolm Brown (7, 99) Texas
Johnathan Gray (9, 99) Texas
Running back Jonathan Williams signed with Arkansas as the No. 28 player in Texas of his class. His national ranking was No. 218 (four stars)
Robbie Rhodes (21, 98) Baylor
Ricky Seals-Jones (23, 98) Texas A&M
A’Shawn Robinson (26, 98) Alabama
Myles Garrett (1, 101) Texas A&M
Tony Brown (16, 99) Alabama
Solomon Thomas (41, 97) Stanford
*Arkansas was a close second here for the Coppell native.
Malik Jefferson (12, 98) Texas
Jarrett Stidham (13, 98) Baylor
Daylon Mack (18, 98) Texas A&M
Greg Little (5, 98) Ole Miss
Ed Oliver (7, 98) Houston
Eric Monroe (42, 96) LSU
Running back Devwah Whaley signed with Arkansas as the No. 21 ranked player in Texas in his 2016 class. He was ranked No. 125 nationally.
Johnathan Marshall, the No. 50 rated player in that class, also signed with Araknsas.
Walker Little (1, 103) Stanford
Baron Browning (10, 99) Ohio State
K’Lavon Chaisson (11, 99) LSU
Cornerback Chevin Calloway signed with Arkansas as the No. 40 rated player in Texas of his class.
Jalen Green (17, 98) Texas
DeMarvion Overshown (28, 98) Texas
Caden Sterns (32, 98) Texas
Linebacker Bumper Pool signed with the Razorbacks as the No. 29 player in his class in Texas. He was ranked No. 243 nationally with a score of 91 (four stars).
DeMarvin Leal (3, 100) Texas A&M
Baylor Cupp (16, 98) Texas A&M
Marcel Brooks (17, 98) LSU
Safety Jalen Catalon was the No. 29 ranked player in Texas in the 2019 class.
Drew Sanders (13, 99) Alabama
Jaxon Smith-Njigba (15, 98) Ohio State
Jaylon Jones (16, 98) Texas A&M
Malik Hornsby was rated as the No. 14 player in Texas in the 2020 class. That was good for No. 99 in the nation with a score of 95 (four stars).
Quinn Ewers (1, 100) Ohio State
Donovan Jackson (7, 99) Ohio State
Tommy Brockermeyer (10, 99) Alabama
Evan Stewart (5, 99) Texas A&M
Harold Perkins (6, 99) Texas A&M
Cade Klubnik (16, 98) Clemson
How the Crimson Tide See Drew Sanders
Sanders had 24 tackles, including 2.5 for loss and a sack, while adding four quarterback hurries and two pass breakups in 12 games in 2021. He was especially effective on special teams and early in the season before Alabama freshman linebacker Dallas Turner came on strong.
Sanders “played well, and he played solid, but Dallas Turner is just a completely different cat,” says Touchdown Alabama’s Stephen M. Smith. “And sometimes when you are a dog yourself, but you look over next to you and you see a dog that’s got a more explosiveness, more burst, more get off, more edge, more big time plays in him. Sometimes it just is what it is. And for all the people talking about this, have you not noticed how uberly talented Alabama’s outside linebacker room is right now?”
“Alabama brings back Will Anderson, Dallas Turner, you still have Chris Braswell, you still have Quandarrius Robinson, you still have Keanu Koht. And then you bring in guys like Jeremiah Alexander, and then you bring in guys like Curtis Perry, and then you have a guy like Kendrick Blackshire, who could be an inside linebacker or an outside line backer, the Crimson Tide could choose to cross train him. This is a stacked outside linebacker room right here.”
Razorback Football Recruiting in Texas in the 1900s
Speaking of “stacked,” that’s exactly what the Arkansas football roster used to be with Texans in the 1960s when the Hogs were the third-winningest program in the nation. It remained that way through the 1980s.
Razorback Texans like Bill Montgomery, Loyd Phillips, Billy Ray Smith Jr., Barry Foster, Joe Johnson (RB not SF) and Kirk Botkin would have qualified as four or five stars coming out of high school.
Here’s a great story about the late Loyd Phillips from Pig Trail Nation’s Mike Irwin:
“He started every year that he was eligible to play here. He was on three teams that never lost to Texas. He’s the only guy I know of like that. There might be a few more, but he always bragged about that, that he never lost to the University of Texas.”
“The stories about that guy on the field were you totally didn’t want to mess with him. And then off the field, he was a terror on Dickson Street. I heard a story not long after I got here from a guy who claimed to have seen this happen. And you know all about these rumors. But he claims that Loyd Phillips got into a fight in the Deluxe Cafe, which I don’t think exists anymore, on Dickson Street, and threw a guy through a plate glass window, out onto the sidewalk.”
“And he said the cops came and they took him to the police station, but they didn’t arrest him because this happened a lot. The routine was, you just sat him down in the lobby, and then you called Lon Ferrell, who was Frank’s kind of troubleshooter guy, and Lon Ferrell would come down and say, “Thank you very much,” and take him back to the dorm and chew him out.”
“And then they would run his butt off in practice for two or three weeks to punish him for what he’d done. So he was a wild man. Now, the interesting thing about Loyd Phillips went to the NFL briefly, but after his career was over, he became an assistant principal on the junior high level, a school administrator, and he totally changed.”
“If you were around him, he was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever… No sense of anger, aggressiveness, or anything like that. I was told those kids loved him because he involved themselves in their problems.”
For more on Arkansas’ recruiting inroads, check out our latest: